Adult school graduates record number of students

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

For those who dropped out before graduating from high school, life suddenly presents more obstacles, including severely limited employment options. For those who have to courage to stand up and take charge of their lives, the Sierra Sands Unified School District’s Adult School presents an excellent option.

The good news is that more people are taking advantage of this opportunity.

“In the 2008-2009 school year, we had 283 students enrolled,” said Ernie Bell, who is now in charge of the school. “Including concurrent students, who are also enrolled in high school and doing credit recovery and independent study, we had a total of 717 students for the whole year in our adult school programs.

“In 2011-2012, we had a total of 817, so in three years’ time we’re up 100 students.”

Bell gave credit for the increase to the hard work done by Shirley Kennedy, who formerly supervised the adult school and is now concentrating fully on Mesquite High School.

He also praised the highly motivated staff and the students themselves.

This is Bell’s first year working with the adult school. After 26 years at Burroughs High School, it was time for something a bit different.

“I’m excited to work with the staff and the students. I’m looking forward to the year,” said Bell.

Since adult school is an independent-study program and since students have varying numbers of classes and credits to complete, they work at their own pace. As a result the time they need to spend in adult school varies.

“In 2008-2009, we had a total of 30 graduates, principally adult school graduates. The concurrent students graduate from high school along with the other high school students,” said Bell.

“In 2011-2012, we had 45 graduates at our special adult school graduation. That’s an increase of half again as many, in only three years. I think that’s tremendous!”

According to current data, 232 concurrent high school students, and 128 independent-study adults are signed up. There’s room for more.

“It’s hard work to go back and do this,” said Bell. “I admire those who do. At our adult school graduation, I listen to the graduates’ speeches. I get goosebumps to hear the things people have overcome to get that diploma.

“The success stories we hear are worth all the work. It’s amazing, and it’s fun to be a part of that.”

Like all other schools in California, the SSUSD Adult School has been hit with budget cuts.

“All our classes have been approved by the California Depart-ment of Education. Unfortunately, we’ve had to cut back on some of our offerings. Right now, we can only focus on meeting the graduation requirements and credit recovery.

“Right now, we’re very happy we can maintain this program and keep it running, because this can make such a difference in people’s lives.

“Some students don’t need much. One student walked in who only needed four credits and was able to complete the requirements in seven weeks and get a diploma.”

Bell also praised the “amazing staff. Sandy Curnow has been so dedicated, working with the program for years as a veteran teacher. Jessica Auld has done an outstanding job with the program and has incorporated techniques that really reach the students. Our new teacher, Christie McLaughlin, has come on board and is also doing an exceptional job — she’s full of energy and enthusiasm.”

For those interested in signing up for adult school, Bell recommends calling the Sierra Vista Education Center, 760-499-1725, between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Go sit down with either Christie or Sandy and talk to them about your needs. They will find out what’s available and get you signed up for the appropriate classes,” said Bell. “Our counselor, Carol Zdeba, works with each student and does their credit analysis. She does an excellent job and works very closely with the students who are enrolled.

“Basically, credits are based on the work that can be completed, so there’s no time deadline, but the sooner the better, because it’s an independent study program and the sooner you start, the sooner you can finish.”

Story First Published: 2012-09-11